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by Kirsteen Paterson
02 February 2023
Ex-Scottish Greens leader Robin Harper 'would have lost' selection battle

Robin Harper address the Scottish Green Party conference in 2005. Pic: David Cheskin/PA

Ex-Scottish Greens leader Robin Harper 'would have lost' selection battle

Robin Harper, the former leader of the Scottish Greens, "would have lost" a selection battle if he had tried to fight another Scottish Parliament election, it is claimed.

Harper was the UK's first elected Green parliamentarian after becoming an MSP in 1999, and he served as his party's co-convener from 2004-2008, when he was succeeded by Patrick Harvie.

He retired from frontline politics in 2011 and has since become a vocal critic of some of his party's main policies on the constitution and gender recognition reform.

Now he's told Holyrood that he would have faced an internal challenge if he had tried to mount another defence of his Lothians region seat.

The claim comes in an exclusive interview for Holyrood's 500th edition.

On stepping down, Harper said: "I would have been one of the oldest members, or maybe the oldest.

"I'm 82 now and I almost sort of regret it. Someone told me I could have gone on representing them in the parliament until I couldn't stand up.

"I wasn't tired of politics, but I felt that for a small, young parliament, there should be a chance for a younger person to come forward."

On internal candidate selections, he went on: "My position would have been challenged and I would have lost. That would not have been a good way to go out."

Under co-leaders Harvie and Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens have entered government for the first time. Avowedly pro-independence, the party is understood to have made the introduction of gender recognition reforms a red line issue in its deal with the SNP.

Harper, who is campaigning for the Union, has voiced concerns over current approaches to gender identity in Scotland and called for the closure of the country's only specialist clinic for children.

And he said focus on these issues has changed the public's view of the party and its environmental focus.

He told Holyrood: "It worries me that it seems that the population of Scotland are thinking the Green Party have drifted away slightly from their central ethic. That's our core, isn't it? It's the environment and getting it right. I can't believe this has happened."

The former teacher said the Greens leadership is "understandably upset" about a video he made in late 2022 for Our Scottish Future, the pro-Union campaign set up by ex-prime minister Gordon Brown.

He said: "Because I'm an ordinary member, I can shout as much as I like about things I think the party haven't got quite right. We are not a religious sect; by and large, they have been understanding."

The Scottish Greens declined to comment.

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